Offseason Prospect Overview: Tyson Miller

Tyson Miller (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

Tyson Miller (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

Developments I looked for in 2018

1) Add velocity

2) Improve consistency of his offspeed pitches

Season Review

Tyson Miller (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

Tyson Miller (photo by Stephanie Lynn)

One of the breakout performers from the system in 2018, Miller made across-the-board improvements by taking advantage of his 6'5" frame with a drop-and-drive delivery to create good extension. His velocity and stuff ticked up as well as he came into the spring with added size and strength. Miller also learned to better utilize the high spin rates on his fastball by working up in the zone more frequently.

Miller led the Carolina League in multiple important statistical categories (K, K%, K-BB%, SwStr%, AVG, WHIP) and ranked near the top in many others. The most impressive aspect of his season was his reliability. Even with his pitch counts limited to 90 pitches (an organizational standard), Miller managed to go 5+ IP in 22 of his 23 starts, including his final 21 outings. That is a rare accomplishment in A-ball.

Positives

In previous years Miller had relied mostly on a sinker/slider approach while working on the development of his changeup. But with a couple of extra MPHs and positive pitch tracking on his four-seam fastball, Miller began incorporating the pitch to increasing degrees throughout the year, while also showing a greater willingness to elevate the pitch. He gets a natural cutting action on the pitch, similar to C.J. Edwards, but to a lesser degree.

Combined with his extension, the high spin rate on the pitch gets on top of hitters more quickly than they expect, which led to a large jump in swings-and-misses. Miller's swinging strike rate improved an impressive 2.4% over his 2017 output, mostly due to this pitch. The most encouraging aspect is hitters had to anticipate it was coming, as Miller throws it often and usually starts off at bats with it, but still had trouble making solid contact.

The change in pitch selection and location also led to a change in results. Miller is no longer reliant on weak contact and ground balls. He is now, not only more capable of missing bats, but has become an extreme fly ball pitcher as well. He'll give up a few home runs but because his fastball command is pretty good he rarely issues free passes thus keeping damage to a minimum.

Miller compliments his fastball with a slider that he works mostly to his glove side and then a changeup mostly to his arm side. He can alter the shape on his slider, but it isn't more than an average, and will hang too many up in the zone. His changeup will flash as a better pitch, with good separation, fade and sink. He will lose feel for it more frequently than his slider though, throwing it a bit too hard which causes it to lose separation and sink, but thankfully when he misses it is often off the plate.

Negatives

I just touched on the issues Miller has controlling his secondary offerings on a consistent basis, but I also worry whether the slider in particular can function as a swing-and-miss offering against advanced hitters. It is difficult for any starter to hold up multiple times through an order without a good breaking ball or other plus pitch. His tendency to miss in the zone with the slider is the most concerning though. He got away with it in High-A, but that won't fly in the bigs. Or rather, it will fly... out of the park.

Summation

Miller put his combination of stamina, consistency and efficiency on display regularly in 2018. Along with his solid fastball command, he definitely has the makings of a workhorse back-of-the-rotation starter if he can fine tune his secondary offerings. If not, Miller does have upside as a relief arm, as the role could also lead to a further bump in his velocity, which would further enhance his best pitch.

2019 Outlook

Miller will turn 24 near the midway point in the season, and the more advanced competition he will face in AA will provide a good litmus test for his ability to remain a starter moving into the future. His size and stamina is not in question, and I tend to bank on pitchers that command their fastball well, but we'll see if his heavy reliance on the pitch can sustain him. If it looks like his secondary pitches will not take a step forward it could behoove the Cubs to transfer Miller to the pen down the stretch to determine if he receives better results.

Comments

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  • fb_avatar

    I commend you trying to come up with prospects for the cubs pitching side, it is very trying to come up with pitchers they have drafted who are doing elite work in our minor leagues.
    It would be helpful if our brain trust would at least give you some exceptional draftees to work with, we are generally drafting college pitchers early and taking high school pitchers late, hoping to get a late bloomer if you will.
    The problem with this is you are passing at the truly elite arms to start with, unless you are drafting at the top to get a crack at the college arms coming off the board in the first ten picks, the kids with the potential is what we have to start drafting with our first few picks, we should have been doing this with our last two drafts.
    Last year I would have taken Hankins with our first pick and anoter high school arm with our next pick, and then taken Hoerner if that's who they wanted.

  • In reply to tater:

    In the 2017 draft, 6 of the Cubs top 7 picks were pitchers. All 6 pitchers were college players. With a better track record of health. Stuff is stuff, but the few extra years in college gives a better idea of the health of the pitcher.

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    In reply to TexasCubsFan:

    We have been mainly drafting college pitchers in the first ten rounds since Theo got here, how has that worked out?
    The first three years he was building the position players, can't disagree, after that I think we should have done a better job of building with young pitchers at the top of first round.
    When he does decide to draft a HS pitcher it is usually after the top 30- 40 are already gone, we still don't have any legitamate 1's or 2's in our system, or can you show me?

  • In reply to tater:

    I will use your theory that this FO should have picked HS pitchers in the 1st round instead of who they selected. Let's start with 2014 because I don't think you want to give Kris Bryant back but would be fine not having Schwarber (2014) and Happ (2015). We did not draft in the first 2 rounds in 2016. In 2017, we used 6 of our top 7 picks on College pitchers. Take some time to look at the data and you will find that the safest and best way to draft and develop pitchers is by drafting college guys, not HS guys.

    2014 1st Round (So Long Kyle, no WS without you Bro, but that's ok, we could have waited another 100 years...)
    HS Pitchers selected after Kyle S was drafted: Kodi Medeiros-Brewers #12, Touki Toussant-Diamondbacks #16, Grant Holmes-Dodgers #22, Forest Griffin-Royals #28, Luis Ortiz-Rangers #30, Justus Sheffield-Indians #31, Michael Kopech-Red Sox #33, Jack Flaherty-Cardinals #34.

    Let's go to 2015 (Bye Bye Happ, I don't like your scowl anyway)
    HS Pitchers selected Happ was drafted: Kolby Allard-Braves #14, Ashe Russell-Royals #21, Beau Burrows-Tigers #22, Mike Nikorak-Rockies #27, Mike Soroka-Braves #28, Nolan Watson-Royals #33, Jake Woodford-Cardinals #39, Triston McKenzie-Indians #42.

    Now, there are a lot of names in this group. If we look at baseball prospectus entering the 2018 season, they have Kopech #17, Allard #24, Soroka #33, McKenzie #37, Sheffield #57, Flaherty #67, Burrows #93. Only Flaherty has pitched any meaningful ML innings and only for 80% of 1 season.

    This FO is clear. When they want a player via trade, they work fast and they over pay. They buy pitching. They draft and develop positional players. They made a few shrewd trades and a few bad ones. When they had a glaring defensive weakness in RF after 2015, they bought Heyward. Except for the few savants, most thought that was a great signing. It hasn't worked out as well as we would have liked.

  • In reply to tater:

    Yeah! Why doesn’t the FO draft pitchers in the 1st round like the last FO? We need more exceptional talent like Andrew Cashner. Not like this year’s Cy Young winner was drafted in the 9th round or anything. Or the guy who one his 2nd the year before was drafted in the 4th round. Elite talent only comes in the 1st round and that’s a fact.

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    In reply to good4you:

    Cherry picking is easy after the fact, yes the mets had a pitcher like DeGrom come thru for them , but what about all the pitchers who don't come thru?
    You get to spend 2-3 million on a first round pick at the last third of the draft round, do you spend on a pitcher who plays in college and has a floor of maybe a 4-5 starter or do you go for a younger kid who has a ceiling of a 2 or ace? I think a lot is dependent on how your team is set up, we have surplus of position players, we should be addressing pitching,and since we have no future aces or no.2's coming, that is where we should be focused,.
    Epstein seems to think he can buy whatever pitching he needs, eventually you price yourself out of options when the player you want becomes available(Harper).

  • In reply to tater:

    Everyone Cherry picks, tater. I'm not in agreement with your statement that the ceiling for college draftees is a 4-5 while drafting HS pitchers gives a better chance at a 1-2.

    So not to cherry pick, I took a look at the last 20 years of Cy Young award winners. I will assume we all agree that the winner of this award is a number 1-2 (while there may be an outlier like Eric Gagne).

    College Draftees: 22 (13 NL, 9 AL). Clemens, Johnson, Scherzer, Lincecum and Kluber are 13 of the 22. The draft rounds are all over the board for these guys.

    HS Draftees: 11 (6 NL, 5 AL). Kershaw and Halladay are 5 of the 11 winners. 1 winner, Jake Peavey, was drafted in the 15th round. The others in the 1st round.

    Undrafted Free Agents: 7 (1 NL; 6 AL) Pedro Martinez and Johan Santana are 4 of the 7.

    I think it is fair to say that picking a HS pitcher in the 1st round does not give a team a greater chance at finding a star. It appears picking college pitchers and signing UFA's yield greater star results. One thing seems clear, if you hit on the right HS pitcher in the 1st round, you got a long time stud. The probability of that is pretty low and a certain way to bury your team in mediocrity for decades. The only team to draft 2 HS pitchers in the 1st round and win a Cy Young Award in the last 20 years is Toronto.

  • In reply to tater:

    You also price yourself out of options when you concentrate the draft on pitching and then need to sign position players. No team can draft the whole lineup, so there has to be SOME mix of trades, free agents and in-house drafting and development. Theo's front office correctly chose to draft the players with less risk of washing out before making MLB, the position players. It amazes me that people can look at the Mets strategy and their resulting record and then complain that the Cubs should have done the same thing.

  • fb_avatar

    Thanks Mike, another awesome article that gives me some rays of hope for a future where the Cubs have drafted-and-developed pitching contributing in the box score. Not just because we share a name. :)

    Do you know anything about how well/poorly Miller does against the running game? Bigger pitchers generally struggle more with this, right?...

    Also/similarly, how is he as an athlete on the mound? Since I don't believe anything was mentioned, I'm guessing pretty average?

    Thanks again Mike, keep up the great work... really enjoying these 1-at-a-time in-depth prospect reports!

  • In reply to Tyson Wirth:

    He does fine holding runners. He is a good athlete and isn't slow to the plate.

  • This is OT, but help, please? My computer (Windows 10) won't play the videos embedded in this and other stories - the ones with the blue play icon. It's obviously a format that my laptop doesn't have drivers for - unless it's a Twitter issue (I don't have an account).

    Unfortunately, it plays the annoying auto-play MLB "Oakland A's backup 2nd baseman best 5 plays of the year" videos just fine...

    I don't want to experiment with downloading stuff until I find something that fixes the problem. What's the video format of these videos? What are you Windows users playing them with?

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Cliff1969:

    I'm having the same problem.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Looks like it's a browser issue. I can play them with MS Edge and Chrome, but not with Firefox. Still checking...

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Firefox sucks!!! Use google chrome

  • In reply to bolla:

    I don't use Chrome for two important reasons:

    1) Google already collects enough information about me without giving them another avenue into my life.

    2) Firefox is a little faster, meaning less delay in reading the golden nuggets of wisdom you so frequently post!

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    LOL

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Bolla doesn't like Firefox because he believes the rumor it was started by Justin Wilson's family.

  • In reply to TexasCubsFan:

    Lol

  • In reply to TexasCubsFan:

    Texascubsfan

    What part of the lone star state do you reside?

  • In reply to cubbybear7753:

    Houston area. You a Texan by birth or Relo?

  • In reply to TexasCubsFan:

    Born and raised 15 minutes from Wrigley. In the DFW area now . Planning on attending the opening weekend against the Rangers

  • In reply to cubbybear7753:

    Our family won't be able to make the Thursday or Saturday games. We planning to go on Sunday, but it's 50/50 at best.

    We are planning to be at the Memorial Day game in Houston. We will probably attend the Tuesday and Wednesday games as well. Are you planning on attending the games in Houston? If yes, let's try to pick a Cubs Den Rally point before and after the game.

  • In reply to TexasCubsFan:

    I am hoping to attend the games in Houston in May. My wife is an Astros fan so that will be a fun series. Definitely would like to get together before the games. My phone number is 469-328-9573 so text me so we can stay in touch.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Ha hilarious, but chrome is faster and this is coming from a devout firefox user for 11 years. Firefox crashes/freezes too much even with the improved upgrade they suck! firefox is the jose quintana of browsers

  • In reply to bolla:

    Now that my friend, is priceless!!!

  • In reply to bolla:

    Appreciate the advice - and the humor!

  • fb_avatar

    I love this site.

  • In reply to Brian Wilson:

    Thank you. We do our best.

    I'll have plenty more of these prospect reports to come this month. We'll also have some coverage of the Cubs Convention next week.

  • Many thanks, Mike, for yet another outstanding analysis.

  • In reply to wthomson:

    You're welcome. It's my pleasure.

  • The Cubs probably have 10/15 pitcher with some potential. I am hoping 3/4 can make it.

  • fb_avatar

    I love reading all the comments here. Am I the only one who uses Safari?
    We know that we haven't developed pitchers although we have traded for a number that have turned out extremely well. I appreciate a great curve ball or change-up but also like a good 99 mph FB. I wish we would draft at least a few power pitchers each draft, just like some NFL teams draft a QB every or every other draft.
    Another good article Michael. Thanks.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    I use Safari. iPad mostly & my iPhone sometimes. Too much “auto correct” is the only issues I sometimes have.

  • I feel like machado is right there for the taking(for the cubs) the yankees appear out(signed lemahiou,tulo to add to torres and andujar with gregarious returning in july they have an infield glut) they refuse to pay 300+ mil for him,phillies are now all in on harper which leaves the white sox lol.I guarantee if machado had a choice between the cubs or white sox he'd pick the cubs and his contract isn't gonna be ridiculously unreasonable.We're talking most likely 8 years 225-275 ish.Let him play ss/3b waive russell,move bryant to the outfield that improves the opf production and infield defense.Offensive issues are drastically improved with a healthy bryant,machado,baez,rizzo,zobrist,schwarber,hopefully a bounce back version of contreras etc and machado pisses off brewer fans/players.I would really hope theo would at least kick the tires or wait to pounce on machado or harper

  • In reply to bolla:

    I’m in agreement with you 100%. I just don’t believe the mo why is there for Theo to spend. It’s really deflating.

  • fb_avatar

    The Cubs are too quiet. I feel that they will make an offer for Harper, or if they don’t want Addy on the club then they make a run at Manny. Superstars this young and this talented don’t come around very often and I just can’t see them passing on them.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Just spitballing here...

    1. MLBTR has a bit from the new SFG GM that they will be making a some sort of transaction soon.
    2. The market for Machado and Harper seems to be heading toward a resolution very soon.
    3. There is the report that Theo has asked Boras to check in with him before Harper signs.
    4. The Cubs probably need to move payroll in order to sign Harper.
    5. The has been speculation on this site that SFG could be a landing spot for Hayward, and SFG needs outfield help.
    6. See point 1.

    Could all these indications point to an exciting week for Cubs fans? All these rumors/speculations seem to fit together to indicate a rapid thaw on the Cubs offseason, although one could probably piece together another set of rumors and come to a different conclusion.

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    Your chances of correctly predicting outcomes are at least as viable as most of what I've read from the "experts" in the press. I think you've nailed it!

  • Something at least more concrete to talk about, although it is maybe not too exciting. MLBTR reports the following:

    The Cubs signed catcher Francisco Arcia to a minor league deal, as originally reported by the Cubs Prospects Twitter feed. Originally signed as a teenager by the Yankees in 2006, the 29-year-old Arcia finally cracked the big leagues last season, appearing 40 games for the Angels and hitting .204/.226/.427 with six homers over 106 plate appearances. Arcia will provide the Cubs with some depth behind backup Victor Caratini, and Arcia could also battle for the backup role himself in Spring Training.

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    Dont forget my favorite, Taylor Davis.

  • fb_avatar

    The Cubs also signed Craig Breslow as their director of strategic initiatives in their baseball operations department. I knew his was a pitcher but I didn't realize that he was a Yale graduate with a degree in molecular biophysics and biochemistry. Maybe he and Theo can talk about their times at Yale.
    I'm glad to see that we're signing bright people and he combines intelligence with baseball knowledge.
    I heard on AM 1000 that (they said) Manny will sign with whoever gives him the most money. The might be the honest truth, but it might show that he doesn't care about winning the most. Money is important, but at that level ($250M plus) I'd rather be playing in October than watching on TV.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    There's money in playing in October, too, both from playoff shares and endorsements resulting from the international exposure. Machado could take advantage of endorsements in two languages. Contract dollars are certainly important, but I'm sure Manny and his agent have a bigger picture to consider.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    If it’s the most offered in contract/years, then it’s probably the Sox. But Cliff brings up playoff & endorsement money as well. The Cubs, Dodgers & Yanks would be better choices when adding all of the above.

  • Contracts being equal, who do you guys prefer if the Cubs “could” sign one, Machado or Harper?

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Milk Stout:

    I'd rather have Harper. I still have questions about Manny's psyche and will to win.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    I’m leaning to Harperas well, for different reason. Obp & Lefty hitter. But I like the fact Machado ‘can’ play short. I would take either one.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    I'm still mixed. An infield of Bryant-Machado-Baez-Rizzo would be absolutely killer! I also like Machado at 3B and Bryant in RF, but I think that reduces Bryant's value some. I'm not as concerned with Manny's will to win as much as his temper, he's had a couple of "incidents."

    Fair or not, I feel like Harper comes off as a prima dona and there would be friction in the clubhouse eventually. I could be way off base, it's just a gut reaction.

    I'm certainly not opposed to signing Harper, but I think I'd choose Manny. His bat in the lineup helps make Heyward in RF more palatable (and J-Hey's defense is better than Harper's)

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Machado was the guy I was focusing on prior to the offseason and his unfortunate comments. I'm less concerned about the comments than I am about this fanbase accepting Machado. I do think that players who are unpopular with the fanbase have a tough sometimes coming out of slumps, and it's a concern. I the end I think Machado's numbers will be what they are but slumps happen and if the fanbase causes those to last even 20% longer than normal it's an issue. I don't see Harper with that problem. Fans love him, his teammates generally love him (outside of a personality type or two) and most importantly if I'm choosing between these players Harper's OBP is sexy as all get out. with the Cubs not being big fans, organizationally, to permanent leadoff hitters Harper give you a chance for a rotation of three guys to do it based on matchup. You could leadoff Zobrist, Harper or Rizzo and have no concerns about giving up anything in terms of HR power down the lineup. How about a day where it's Zo, Bryant, Rizzo, Harper, Baez, Schwarber. Or Rizzo, Bryant, Harper, Baez, Schwarber on another day. It makes the "omg where is our leadoff hitter" a non-issue. I have not wavered in that I think Harper is coming and I'm not now, but I think for the first time we can legitimately say they might look at Machado as a different option. This is going to get real as soon as Philly makes a formal offer to Harper and/or Machado. I expect Andrew Friedman and company to pop up like a Jack in the Box around that time as well.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Depending how credible charles the cat is, he said that the cubs are monitoring the machado market & that he heard tom ricketts will sign off on a machado or harper contract!!

  • In reply to bolla:

    Yep. I follow the Cat. I have no idea if he's going to be right or not but he's been right on the timeline. He said two weeks ago that the Cubs were waiting for offers to be made, now that they're starting to I expect the real players to get in this thing. I want Harper, Machado will not make me sad,

  • Speaking of endorsements, I found it interesting that MLB ended its long standing prohibition on active players and coaches being hired as spokesmen for beer companies. I don't know if they can endorse wine and distilled spirits too.

    I was told by an ad exec that the first grouping of players that were contacted about possible national endorsement deals told the reps they don't drink beer.

  • In reply to TexasCubsFan:

    Next thing you know Joe will be riding a segway around Binny's.

  • fb_avatar

    I just read that Pat Hughes was named IL Sportscaster of the year for 2018. He's won this 9 times in IL and 3 times in WI. I certainly enjoy listening to him, but I enjoy Len Kasper as well. Congrats Pat.

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